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TENS Unit Electrode Placement

TENS Unit Electrode Placement

4 minute read

What are Electrode Pads?

Electrical stimulation machines almost always arrive with a set of pads but rarely is it explained how to use them for your specific injury/need. There are countless different combinations and placements and each electrode placement has a varied result and purpose, which we will highlight in this article. 

Why is Muscle Stimulator Electrode Placement Important?

The location of the pads is EVERYTHING when it comes to proper recovery. When misplaced, the pads can't transport the electric current to the intended joint/muscle. Follow the guidelines below to insure that you place the electrode pads in the most efficient way for your needs. 

Things to keep in mind

  • Always use two pads or four pads at the same time to surround the area. Do not just one pad as this will not work. 

  • The pads should never touch and should be kept at least an inch apart. 

  • Electrode pad set (2 electrode pads) should be located on the same limb or not too far away from each other.
  • The flow of electrical stimulation can be manipulated by changing the distance and the location of the electrode pads. 

  • Locate exactly where the pain is by gently pressing and feeling for the area that causes the most discomfort. This will guide the ideal electrode placement. 

10 Most Effective Pad Placements :

Chronic Neck Pain | Pulled Neck

TENS Unit pad placement is very important when the source of pain is close to the head. For this kind of pain, locate the source of tenderness and place the pads along the sides of the spine, outlining the source like shown below:

chronic neck pain

Stiff Shoulders | Shoulder Pain

For sore or stiff shoulder muscles, pads should ideally be placed along the back on both sides, leaving the spine in the middle with plenty of space on either side. Another option would be to place one of the two pads from each side on the outer side of the shoulder and leaving the other on the upper back. 

Stiff Shoulders

Knee Pain | Elbow Pain

For any joints like the knee or elbow, you want to keep the electrode pads off the tip of the joint itself, as the pads won't efficiently stick and it's usually not the source of the pain. Pads should be placed about an inch or two away from the middle of the knee cap, or elbow where the muscle is tender. 

Knee Pain

Hip Pain | Sciatica Pain

For chronic pain associated with the sciatic nerve, or around the hips, electrode pads should be positioned like shown below. Again, each person will vary slightly depending on the source of tenderness but in terms of general positioning, this one is ideal for maximum circulation.


Slipped Disk

A slipped or inflamed disk can be extremely painful or uncomfortable. For this ailment, electrode placement is ideal when pads are angled like so to encourage a strong current between both sets of electrodes. 

slipped disk

Calves Pain and Soreness

The calves are one of the most commonly sore or strained muscles, especially for runners and climbers. One electrode pad should be placed at the top of the calf muscle with the other pad at the bottom of the calf muscle. 

Ankle Pain

For ankle injuries or tenderness, feel around for the exact source of tendon tenderness and place electrode pads on opposing sides to allow the electric waves to pass through the area of soreness. 

Abs Pain and Soreness

Before placing electrodes on your abdominal area, make sure to flex first to locate your muscles and place the electrodes on the outer side of the muscles. If you are pregnant, check with your doctor. 


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The placement shown below could be applied to the back or front side of the hand for carpal tunnel syndrome, depending on the area where the muscle feels most tender. Shown below is the ideal placement on the top side or under side of the arm. 

Hamstring Pain

The ideal placement on the hamstrings is with one electrode pad above the knee (back side) and the other about 2/3 inches above that. If pain is severe, one could also add additional pads, and place two close to where the glute and hamstring meet. Below, the basic method is demonstrated. 

Are you still searching for the ideal TENS Unit for your specific injury/chronic pain? The Verve TENS/EMS Unit (pictured below) is a highly recommended e-stim machine with 2 channels, 12 modes and includes 6 latex free electrode pads: 2 small, 2 large and 2 extra large. When used properly these electrode pads can last up to 30 uses.

TENS Unittens/ems

Try it out and pair with the ideal electrode pad positioning to fit your needs.

Happy Healing!

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